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Jul 20 2012

My Made in China Tool

 

Don’t know what it is called now. When I was a boy, it was called a pick axe or mattock. Wikipedia knows all about them and can tell you of them.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattock

My father, the minister, had such a tool for years. He used it to dig rocks out of the ground, chop through fairly big roots, and lots of other things. It was quite useful. It worked as it should. And it was made in the USA. My sister inherited it and probably still uses it.

In furtherance of one of my rare home improvement projects, I acquired a modern version of this classic tool. It has a yellow plastic handle, probably made out of three different  kinds of industrial waste, rather than the traditional wooden handle that was usually made out of hickory or ash. The advertisements on the display rack in the store (which I will not name to avoid the possible problem of a lawsuit against me for libel—which I could win because truth is a defense—over which I do not care to be bothered), said this yellow handle is stronger than wood. May be. It hasn’t broken yet. And it will not get the chance to do so.

This modern rendering of the farmer’s mattock was used once by me.

The first (and only) time I used the artifact was to attempt to dig a hole in the ground to plant some ornamental grass. No big deal and the ground was soft from several days of rain. However, there were some old tree roots in the place where the hole wanted to be. This digging and cutting project was the kind of duty a mattock was made to perform. A mattock made in the United States, that is. The same kind of mattock my father had bought in the USA before I was born, and used successfully the rest of his life. But this wasn’t a new version of my father’s mattock. My new tool was made in China.

There is nothing inherently wrong with something being made in China, or anywhere else. China has produced quality goods for centuries. Old Yellow Handle was not one of them.

One day recently I spent about an hour in a huge hardware store trying to find something that was made in America. The only thing I could find that was not made in some part of Asia, India, or somewhere else that was not my homeland, was Gorilla Glue, made in Cincinnati, Ohio.

And some people actually wonder why Americans do not have jobs.

If you want good tools that work, you should go to used-stuff stores, yard sales, auctions, antique stores, and that sort of thing. Most of those old, well used, tools will still do what they were made to do.

Here below is a photo of my tool a few minutes into its first use.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    I hope you took it back for a refund.

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    Nitpick: It’s a mattock.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattock

    And you need to blame American retailers, not China. Did you buy it at WalMart?

  3. 3
    Bill Door

    Made in America.
    http://www.counciltool.com/product.asp?pg=product&item=D50PM-1

    1. 3.1
      b timothycreel

      That site is pure tool-porn. I wish I had more money…

  4. 4
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Well… there’s made in China and “made in China for American Company X” and the second one will usually have similar quality control to their American counterparts.

  5. 5
    rapiddominance

    Maybe you should pray before you do yardwork.

    And don’t tell me you did pray because I can see clearly that you didn’t.

    ;)

    Again, the serpent has returned to a favorite hole.

    You know, I remember when this hole was teaming with prairie dogs. Hey, I didn’t eat them; and you didn’t shoot them. Its like they all got rabies (or the rage virus) and went ape shit attacking everyone uninfected; like some fucking zombie movie.

    Afterwards, I just plopped my ass down in the still warm, yet vacated tunnels.

    But I better tone it down–quit wagging my little rattle tail– because the farmers got a bloghammer and IT wasn’t made in China.

  6. 6
    anthrosciguy

    There are some decent new hand tools being made, but it is true that many of the older ones are better. Certainly they are typically more nicely finished, which is not the same thing but it’s nice to work with asthetically pleasing tools. That’s been going on for some time. My old Snap-on and Craftsman hand tools from the late 60s are nicer than newer examples of the same brands, but neither holds a candle to the old screwdriver I got that was originally my grandfather’s.

    Not so easy to find though. So buy new unless you’re lucky enough to get what you want used, just don’t submit to the temptation to buy the cheapest ones. I did that this spring with a set of micro screwdrivers, and then went back for a good set. So much better, nice feel and balance, and — really, what was I thinking going cheap — they were only $5.

    But esp. for tools such as the one you were using (or picks, etc.) yard sales are great, assuming you can find what you need when, or before, you need it. Even fairly heavily rusted heads are fine; just hit them with rust remover and replace the handle. (Alas, the handles usually aren’t quite so nice, and strong, wood as they used to be, but they’re good enough, and there are other materials, like the one you got.)

  7. 7
    baryogenesis

    Tried using open-ended wrenches made in India a couple of decades ago on my car and the squareness of the box became round after very little use. I have returned heavy-use tools to Walmart where they asked me to fill out a form. I wrote that the tool failed after one use and recommended they not sell it. Got a refund and never again saw that tool for sale.
    What really gets me is that sometimes I would gladly pay more for a tool anywhere that did the job, but often only the cheap version is available.

  8. 8
    krgrace

    Nostalgia trip. There is (was) a similar, smaller tool used in pulpwood logging that is called (in Michigan) a “pickaroon.” When I was a kid in the 70s-80s, these were already hard to find in a good quality, so my father (a logger) made and sold them in his small chain-saw repair shop, using spring steel from old cars and trucks. I’m not aware of any of these ever “failing,” and they typically got 6-8 hours of heavy use per day. I still have one in the garage, and there are times when no other tool will do. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  9. 9
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    That is a mattock, and not a pick or pickaxe, and yes, it is a complete piece of crap. That’s not even a decent hoe.

    Unless it were made from some expensive alloy, the blade is too thin upon visual inspection. I’m sure there are bladed that look about the right thickness and still suck because they are made cheaply of the wrong metal.

  10. 10
    Trebuchet

    Well… there’s made in China and “made in China for American Company X” and the second one will usually have similar quality control to their American counterparts.

    I realize it’s been a couple of days, but I have to respond.

    First, I think pretty much ALL of the “made in China” products in American stores are “made in China for American company X”. Production of good in China for export to the USA is done to order from American companies. These companies may, or may not, provide specifications to the Chinese manufacturers, who may, or may not, meet them. In this case, the only specification was price.

    And of course, “Made in USA” is no guarantee of quality either.

  11. 11
    neleabels

    Perhaps you should settle with “Made in Germany”? We produce better quality. ;)

    1. 11.1
      Edwin Kagin

      Indeed you do and I get them when I can. Quality of most German stuff of this sort is outstanding. I also have a couple of axes made in Sweden. These too are first rate. We used to make tools and such, and it could be said of “Made in the USA” that the products were among the very best on the planet. But no more. Tea Party types, in an extraordinary show of Americanism, laid off American workers and started producing their products, in much inferior form, elsewhere. These patriotic types are profiting from selling dross to their fellow countrymen.

  12. 12
    c

    So it bent? Wow.

    Yah.. you can’t even buy chatcki’s from mt Rushmore that are made in America

  13. 13
    rapiddominance

    At some point we might want to talk about what happened down in prairie dog land.

    Yes, you’re repopulating a little. You’re drawing sizeable numbers with stories about cooking eggs and purchasing american tools, but I don’t think this is the life you were looking for here at the FtB’s.

    Our readership needs you to be mentally present and engaged in our unstated mission of advancing reason and bringing secular leadership to our nation.

    Now lets get back on our feet and start reminding the world how smart we are–once again.

    You’ve got a pope to finish cooking. Chop! Chop!

  14. 14
    Lancifer

    But no more. Tea Party types, in an extraordinary show of Americanism, laid off American workers and started producing their products, in much inferior form, elsewhere.

    Your rage is misplaced. “Tea party types” had no role in the burgeoning industrial expansion of China.

    Chinese capitalists (authorized by the Chinese communist party that had seen what strict adherence to Marxist economic dogma had wrought in the now defunct Soviet Union) reached out to western industrialists with the promise of cheaper labor.

    Some of these unions worked leading to a rush to the bottom as far as quality is concerned.

    Not to worry. Chinese quality standards will be subject to the same market forces that forged the Japanese, and more recently the Koreans, into some of the most quality intensive manufacturers on the planet when they realized that price alone will not sustain economic development in a free market.

    Oh wait, you probably favor a top down government solution.

    You might want to Google “Trabant” to see how that strategy plays out.

    1. 14.1
      Corvus illustris

      Perhaps for “Tea Party types” you should read “the types who financed the Tea Party.”

      Oh, and instead of Googling “Trabant” you might want to suggest Googling “Volkswagen,” geboren “Kraft durch Freude Wagen.” Or is government involvement only ok when the politics of the government agree with yours?

  15. 15
    Drew

    Isn’t the adze side of that tool (the one that is now bent) supposed to be sharpened? From the picture it looks pretty blunt to me.

  16. 16
    Poose

    My take on “inexpensive” tools:

    I was shopping for combination wrenches (one end open, one end box) and have a little trick for determining the quality of both the alloy and the degree of hardening/temper-

    You take two of roughly the same size, hook the open end into the box of the other one (forming a “Vee” and the squeeze the handles together as hard as you can.

    Even in sizes as small as 10mm/7/16″ they shouldn’t permanently bend, but most Indian and Chinese imports will.

    I use Fullers. Expensive as Hel, but worth it. Used the same set now for a decade.

  17. 17
    Poose

    “Not to worry. Chinese quality standards will be subject to the same market forces that forged the Japanese, and more recently the Koreans, into some of the most quality intensive manufacturers on the planet when they realized that price alone will not sustain economic development in a free market.”‘

    Out here in Australia/New Zealand the Chinese already tried to break into the motorcycle market. It was an abysmal failure-word got around the bikes were total crap (they were) and most of the dealerships folded-so no parts or support.

    Now-Great Wall is trying to sell Utes and SUVs to the Kiwis.

    Gonna be interesting to see how this latest move will pan out. Imagine trying to best Toyota’s Hilux line of Utes…

    …Good luck with that…

  18. 18
    D. Cormack

    1.A pickaxe is the small axe used by mountaineers.
    2.A pick has two lengths of metal similar to one side of your tool and is the sort of tool weilded by an irish american construction labourer.
    3. Your tool has a flat mattock blade on one side, but a mattock need not have the short metal piece your tool has on the other side.

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